Khilafat Movement (1919-1924) was a Pan-Islamic movement influenced by Indian nationalism. The Ottoman Emperor Abdul Hamid II (1876-1909) had launched a Pan-Islamic programme to use his position as the Sultan-Khalifa of the global Muslim community with a view to saving his disintegrating empire from foreign attacks and to crush the nationalistic democratic movement at home. The visit of his emissary, Jamaluddin Afghani, to India in the late nineteenth century to propagate Pan-Islamic ideas received a favourable response from some Indian Muslim leaders.
These sentiments intensified early in the twentieth century with the revocation in 1911 of the 1905 partition of bengal, the Italian (1911) and Balkan (1911-1912) attacks on Turkey, and Great Britain’s participation in the First World War (1914-18) against Turkey.
The defeat of Turkey in the First World War and the division of its territories under the Treaty of Sevres (10 August 1920) among European powers caused apprehensions in India over the Khalifa’s custodianship of the Holy places of Islam. Accordingly, the Khilafat Movement was launched in September 1919 as an orthodox communal movement to protect the Turkish Khalifa and save his empire from dismemberment by Great Britain and other European powers. The Ali brothers, Muhammad Ali and Shawkat Ali, Maulana abul kalam azad, Dr MA Ansari, and Hasrat Mohani, initiated the Movement. Khilafat Conferences were organised in several cities in northern India. A Central khilafat Committee, with provisions for provincial branches, was constituted at Bombay with Seth Chotani, a wealthy merchant, as its President, and Shawkat Ali as its Secretary. In 1920 the Ali Brothers produced the Khilafat Manifesto. The Central Khilafat Committee started a Fund to help the Nationalist Movement in Turkey and to organise the Khilafat Movement at home.
Contemporaneously, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi led his non-violent nationalist movement satyagraha, as a protest against government repression evidenced, for example, in the Rowlatt Act of 1919, and the Jalian Wallah Bagh Massacres of April 1919. To enlist Muslim support in his movement, Gandhi supported the Khilafat cause and became a member of the Central Khilafat Committee. At the Nagpur Session (1920) of the indian national congress Gandhi linked the issue of Swaraj (Self-Government) with the Khilafat demands and adopted the non-cooperation plan to attain the twin objectives.
By mid-1920 the Khilafat leaders had made common cause with Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement promising non-violence in return for Gandhi’s support of the Khilafat Movement whereby Hindus and Muslims formed a united front against British rule in India. Support was received also of Muslim theologians through the Jamiyat-al Ulama-i-Hind (The Indian Association of Muslim Theologians). Maulana mohammad akram khan of Bengal was a member of its Central Executive and Constitution Committee.
However, the movement’s objectives of communal harmony and nonviolence suffered a setback because of the Hijrat (Exodus) to Afghanistan in 1920 of about 18,000 Muslim peasants, mostly from Sind and North Western Provinces, the excesses of Muslims who felt that India was Dar-ul-Harb (Apostate land), the Moplah rebellion in South India in August 1921, and the Chauri-Chaura incident in February 1922 in the United Provinces where a violent mob set fire to a police station killing twenty-two policemen. Soon after Gandhi called off the Non-cooperation movement, leaving Khilafat leaders with a feeling of betrayal.
The extra-territorial loyalty of Khilafat leaders received a final and deadly blow from the Turks themselves. The charismatic Turkish nationalist leader Mustafa Kemal’s startling secular renaissance, his victories over invading Greek forces culminating in the abolition of the Sultanate in November 1922, and the transformation of Turkey into a Republic in October 1923, followed by the abolition of the Khilafat in March 1924, took the Khilafatists unaware. By 1924 the Khilafat Movement, had become devoid of any relevance and significance and met its end.
The first stirrings in favour of the Khilafat Movement in Bengal was seen on 30 December 1918 at the 11th Session of the All India muslim league held in Delhi. In his presidential address, ak fazlul huq voiced concern over the attitude of Britain and her allies engaged in dividing and distributing the territories of the defeated Ottoman Empire.
When the Paris Peace Conference (1919) confirmed these apprehensions, Bengali Khilafat leaders such as Maulana Akram Khan, Abul Kasem, and mujibur rahman khan held a Public meeting in Calcutta on 9 February 1919 to enlist public support in favour of preserving the integrity of the Ottoman Empire and saving the institution of Khilafat.
In Bengal, the Khilafat-Non-Cooperation Movement (1918 to 1924) became a mass movement in which both Muslims and Hindus participated. The Bengal movement benefited from coordinated action by and between the Central and Provincial Khilafat leaders. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad propagated Khilafat ideas in rural Bengal. In the initial stage, the movement was popularised by Bengali leaders such as Maulana Akram Khan, maniruzzaman islamabadi, Mujibur Rahman Khan, the brothers Maulana abdullahil kafi and Maulana abdullahil baqi, ismail hossain shiraji, Abul Kasem and AK Fazlul Huq. Maulana Akram Khan and Maniruzzaman Islambadi toured Bengal and organised Khilafat meetings, particularly in Dhaka and Chittagong. In an article Asahojogita-o-Amader Kartabya (non cooperation and our obligation), Maniruzzaman Islambadi declared that to protect Khilafat and to acquire Swaraj were the twin aims of the movement and that it was the sacred duty of every Indian to support these ideas.
During the observance of the first Khilafat Day on 17 October 1919, most Indian-owned shops remained closed in Calcutta, prayers were offered at different mosques, and public meetings were held all over Bengal. On 23-24 November 1919 the first All-India Khilafat Conference held in Delhi was presided over by AK Fazlul Huq from Bengal. It was resolved that pending a resolution of the Khilafat problem there would be no participation in the proposed peace celebrations, that British goods should be boycotted, and that a policy of non-cooperation with the government would be adopted. In early 1920 the Bengal Provincial Khilafat Committee was organised with Maulana Abdur Rauf as President, Maniruzzaman Islambadi as Vice President, Maulana Akram Khan as General Secretary, and Mujibur Rahman and Majid Baksh as Joint Secretaries respectively. The office of the organisation was located at Hiron Bari Lane of Kolutola Street in Calcutta.
The first Bengal Provincial Khilafat Conference was held at the Calcutta Town Hall on 28-29 February 1920. Several members of the Central Khilafat Committee attended. Prominent Bengali Khilafat leaders such as AK Fazlul Huq, Abul Kasem, Mujibur Rahman participated in the conference and reiterated the view that unless their demands on the Khilafat problem were met non-cooperation and boycott would continue. The conference decided to observe 19 March 1920 as the Second Khilafat Day.
In March 1920 a Khilafat delegation led by Maulana Muhammad Ali went to England to plead for the Khilafat cause. Abul Kasem represented Bengal in this delegation. Local Khilafat Committees were also constituted. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulvi Abdur Rahman became President and Secretary respectively of the Calcutta Khilafat Committee. On 20 December 1919 the Dhaka Committee was founded at the ahsan manzil with Nawab khwaja habibullah as President, Syed Abdul Hafez as alternate President, and Gholam Quddus as Secretary. In response to the demands of the citizens of Dhaka, a “Sadar Khilafat Committee” was formed; Khwaja Sulaiman Kadar was its President, Maulana Abdul Jabbar Ansari, Hafez Abdur Razzak, Hafez Abdul Hakim its Vice-Presidents, and Maulvi Shamsul Huda its Secretary.
On 19 March 1920 the Second Khilafat Day was observed in Bengal. In Calcutta life almost came to a standstill and numerous Khilafat meetings were held in dhaka, Chittagong and Mymensingh. The largest meeting was held in Tangail and was presided over by abdul halim ghaznavi, the liberal nationalist Muslim zamindar. At this meeting, Maniruzzaman Islambadi urged the public to adopt Satyagraha as the symbol of the Khilafat movement.
Most districts of Bengal witnessed a mushroom growth of Khilafat Committees alongside existing Congress Committees, often with common membership. This was the first significant anti-British mass movement in which Hindus and Muslims participated with equal conviction. The media, both Muslim and Hindu, played a vital role in popularising the movement. ‘Mohammadi’, ‘Al-Eslam’ and ‘The Mussalman’ were publications which deserve mention. The Khilafat Movement engendered a Muslim political consciousness that reverberated throughout Bengal under the leadership of Maulana Azad, Akram Khan, Maniruzzaman Islambadi, Bipin Chandra Pal and chitta ranjan das. Though the Khilafat movement was orthodox in origin, it did manage to generate liberal ideas among Muslims because of the interaction and close understanding between Hindus and Muslims. Following the example of Calcutta, volunteer organisations were set up in rural Bengal to train volunteers to enforce boycott of foreign goods, courts, and government offices. They were also engaged in spinning, popularising items of necessity, and raising contributions for the Khilafat cause. In some areas in Dhaka, Muslim zamindars extracted ‘Khilafat Salami’ from Muslim tenants by declaring themselves the representatives of the Sultan of Turkey. Ironically, due to the ignorance of these tenants this custom continued long after the Khilafat was abolished.
Visibly shaken by the popularity of the Movement, through a Notification on 19 November 1921 the Government of Bengal declared the activities of the Khilafat and Congress volunteers illegal. Government officers raided Khilafat offices, confiscated documents and papers, banned meetings, and arrested office bearers. About a hundred and fifty personalities including Maulana Azad, CR Das, Akram Khan, and Ambika Prashad Bajpai were arrested in Calcutta on 10 December 1921.
At this critical juncture, a rift arose between Khilafat and Non-cooperation leaders on the issue of boycotting educational institutions and legislative councils. Some Muslim leaders believed that such boycott would be suicidal for Muslims. They were in favour of participating in the elections under the India Act of 1919 that assured self-governing institutions in India.
Prominent among this group of Swarajist leaders were CR Das, bipin chandra pal, Motilal Nehru, surendranath banerjea, Ashutosh Chowdhury, asutosh mookerjee and sarat chandra bose. Notable Muslims subscribing to the same ideas were AK Fazlul Huq, Abul Kasem, Khwaja Muhammad Azam, Khwaja Afzal, Nawab Khwaja Habibullah, hakim habibur rahman, Syed nawab ali chowdhury, Sir Syed Shamsul Huda, Sir abdullah al-mamun suhrawardi, Maulana Abu Bakr Siddiky (Pir of Furfura), Shah Ahsanullah, Kazem Ali and huseyn shaheed suhrawardy. Indian National Congress and the Muslim nationalists were strongly opposed to the idea of joining the councils.
Eminent Hindu personalities in Bengal who supported the Khilafat movement were Bipin Chandra Pal, Shrish Chandra Chattopadhya, Kaminikumar Bandyopadhaya, Dr Rai Kumar Chakravarty, PC Ghosh, Basanta Kumar Majumdar, aswini kumar dutta, Pyarilal Roy, Gurucharan Aich, Sarat Kumar Gupta, Poet Mukunda Das, Haranath Ghosh, Nagendra Bhattacharya, Satindra Sen, Dr Tarini Gupta, Sarol Kumar Dutta, Nishi Kanta Ganguly, Monoranjan Gupta, Sarat Kumar Ghosh, Nagendra Bijoy Bhattacharya, Nalini Das, Sailendra Nath Das, Khitish Chandra Roy Chowdhury and many others.
Though the Khilafat movement ended abruptly, the political activities it gave rise to and the experience gained therefrom, proved invaluable to Bengali Muslims after the 1947 partition. Among the numerous participants in the Khilafat movement from Bengal the names of some representative notable personalities are mentioned below: Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani originally from Pabna but later settled at Kagmari, in Tangail district, Zahiruddin Tarafdar (Mymensingh), Abul Mansur Ahmed (Mymensingh), Abul Kalam Shamsuddin (Mymensingh), Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy (Calcutta), Maulana Abdur Rashid Tarkabagish (Pabna), Habibur Rahman Chowdhury (Comilla), Ashrafuddin Ahmed Chowdhury (Comilla), Shah Badrul Alam (Chittagong), Maulvi Aman Ali (Chittagong), Nurul Huq Chowdhury (Chittagong), Muhammad Waliullah (Chittagong), Kazem Ali Miah (Chittagong) Tamizuddin Khan (Faridpur), Pir Badshah Miah (Faridpur), Moazzem Hossain Chowdhury alias Lal Miah (Faridpur), Justice Muhammad Ibrahim (Faridpur), Majid Baksh (Barisal), Abul Kashem (Barisal), Khan Bahadur Hemayetuddin Ahmed (Barisal), Poet Mozammel Huq (Bhola) Hashem Ali Khan (Barisal), Wahed Reza Chowdhury of Ulania (Barisal), Sultan Ahmed Chowdhury (Barisal), Majed Kazi of Kasbah (Barisal), Khan Sahib Hatem Ali Jamadar (Barisal), Syed Muhammad Afzal (Pirojpur), Ismail Khan Chowdhury (Barisal), Maulvi Muhammad Ibrahim (Noakhali), Abdul Jabbar Khaddar (Noakhali), Abdul Gofran (Noakhali), Syed Ahmed Khan (Noakhali), Nasir Ahmad Bhuiyan (Noakhali), Suren Chandra Das Gupta (Bogra), Hussein Ahmed (Gaibandha), Rajibuddin Tarafdar (Bogra), Kabiraj Sheikh Abdul Aziz (Bogra), Ishaq Gokuli (Bogra), Maulana Maniruddin Anwari (Dinajpur), Shomeshwar Prasad Chowdhury (Burdwan), Shah Abdul Hamid (Rangpur), Afsaruddin Ahmed (Khulna), Sukumar Bandyopadhaya (Kushtia), Maulvi Shamsuddin Ahmed (Kushtia), Syed Majid Baksh (Jessore) and Maulana Ahmed Ali (Khulna).
In addition to the front-rank leaders of the Khilafat movement, a new class of Muslim leaders emerged during this period from urban as well as from distant parts of Bengal. They gained experience in organising and mobilising the public. The Khilafat movement provided an opportunity to throw up a new Mofassil based leadership, which played a key role in introducing a coherent self-assertive political identity for Bengali Muslims. After the 1947 Partition, these personalities played effective roles in their respective areas of activity. [Taken from Banglapedia. Edited by Abdullah Mujahid].
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